So things have been a little quiet on the blog front this past month or so.
I haven't spoken about it much but my health hasn't been great this Winter - I've been really run down and catching every bug going around. When you add that onto looking after 3 kids and studying well, things have definitely gotten on top of me.
I may have mentioned before that I've also been having some thyroid problems. Now I never had even an inkling of a thyroid issue until after having baby number 3. Post-partum thyroiditis is apparently really common but it's been tricky for me to manage.
I've been absolutely freezing this Winter (feeling cold is one of the symptoms) and have piled on about 6kg which is incredibly frustrating as I'm eating well and haven't had to think about my weight at all for a couple of years.
Hypothyroidism (or underactive thyroid) which is what I have, can also greatly impact on mood and anxiety levels so on top of feeling cold and fat I've also been feeling pretty down. Sounds like fun hey?
After hibernating for a while, I decided I had to make some changes.
Clearly what I was doing wasn't working.
And isn't that the definition of insanity? Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results?
You may have heard the phrase 'self-care' bandied about a lot recently. For me it used to conjure up images of going to a spa for a massage or lighting candles. All good things but nothing I have the time for. Nothing that lights me up, so to speak.
A few months ago I stumbled across a book by Doreen Virtue called 'Don't Let Anything Dull Your Sparkle' and I read it, captivated. Because that is exactly what I have lost - sparkle. I have been feeling dulled down, tired, overwhelmed and uninspired. No wonder my health has been slowly going down the toilet.
Reading that book made me aware of all the drama I was allowing in my life. So getting rid of that was the first step I took.
1. Drama detox
Now anyone who knows me might be surprised that I consider myself addicted to drama. Outwardly I'm a pretty calm and quiet person. But my god, the drama that goes on in my head sometimes!
After taking a good hard look at just where my energy goes I could instantly see how much time and energy I was wasting on drama - the shows I watched on TV were full of crime, violence and stressful situations, reading the news online, getting caught up in the rush and busy-ness of life and allowing all of that to affect my mood and my sleep.
What I did - switched off the TV, removed all the programs I had set to record on the DVR, removed the bookmarks to news sites on my laptop, removed Facebook from my phone, found a classical music station on the car radio.
How I felt - removing all these stressful influences has had a major impact on my mood. I feel lighter and happier and, bonus, I have so much more time. Extra bonus the kids have been really enjoying listening to classical music!
I've always been so resistant to meditation. But as they say, the things we resist the most, are usually the things we need the most. And so it was here too.
Meditation has been absolutely the greatest gift to myself these past few months. Setting aside just a little bit of time each day to relax, be still and clear my mind. Forget sitting cross-legged on the side of a mountain and chanting - meditation can be as simple as closing your eyes and focusing on your breath for a few seconds ... and instantly reaping the benefits.
My favourite tool for meditation is the Insight Timer app. It is completely free and gives you access to thousands of guided meditations. You can also meditate to music or just choose some background music and set the timer. Try a few and you will find the style that suits you best. I do a quick 5-minute meditation as soon as I wake up to set the tone for the day and then as soon as Mr 2 goes down for his nap in the middle of the day, I lie down too and take 20 minutes for myself. And no matter how tempting it is to rush around and get a few things done as soon as he goes to bed, I've learnt from experience that if I don't take the time straight away, it may not happen.
What I did - committed to least 5 minutes of meditation every day
How I felt - AMAZING. I now crave that peace and stillness and I can draw on those feelings when things get crazy. Which, with 3 young kids, is pretty often!
Ok so I can't talk about improving my health without talking about diet.
As you know I am all about whole foods so I didn't have to cut out any junk, I just had to become more mindful with my eating and do some experimenting.
Some big triggers for thyroid health seem to be gluten, dairy and sugar. Which makes sense as they are all inflammatory and can impact on gut health.
The dairy and sugar were easy (ish) to remove but after 6 weeks now without gluten, I can say with absolute certainty that it's helping. I actually felt positive changes within a few days - more energy, less brain fog, less bloating.
So while I don't have celiac (I've had both blood tests and a biopsy to rule it out) it seems my body simply works better without gluten. I will be writing a post about going gluten free soon so I won't go into too much detail here.
The other side to diet is mindfulness - actually listening to what your body needs and then thinking about what to eat.
What I did - eating 3 proper meals each day rather than grazing or finishing the kids leftovers. Increasing the amount of veggies, especially greens. Sticking to 2 pieces of fruit per day. Drinking lots of water and herbal tea throughout the day.
How I felt - unsurprisingly I am feeling a bit better!
I am not someone who functions well without sleep. Luckily I was blessed with kids that are good sleepers (please don't hate me!) and we are well past the baby stage anyway.
I need 8 hours sleep every night without fail. The easiest way to work out the right bedtime is to simply count back 8 hours from when your alarm goes off. Mine goes off at 5.30am which means lights out at 9.30pm.
The next thing is to think about how you are spending that last hour before bed and avoiding screen time if you can.
My night time ritual always includes a cup of tea, washing my face and putting on some beautiful smelling moisturiser and reading in bed for about half an hour before I turn out the light. If I do all these things then it is much easier to fall asleep and I don't feel like a total zombie the next day.
What I did - committed to a night time ritual and a set bedtime.
How I felt - While I still have some days when I need a nap in the afternoon (fatigue goes hand in hand with a dodgy thyroid), getting enough sleep at night makes everything feel easier.
5. Personal growth
Removing some negative stressful influences in my life has freed up some time and some space - which I have filled with books, music and podcasts. I am completely addicted to podcasts!
My favourites at the moment are:
- Happy Mama with Amy Taylor-Kabbaz
- How She Really Does It with Koren Motekaitis
- Magic Lessons with Elizabeth Gilbert
What I did - filled my free time with positive, informative and uplifting books, music and podcasts.
How I felt - inspired to do more, learn more, create more and connect more
So after all that, what did I learn about self-care this Winter?
It's essential. It makes a massive difference. And there's no one right way to do it.
What does self-care mean to you?